Lowry’s art and zoo fun

Liesel and Rosie went over to Levenshulme to visit an antique shop. If they bought anything here, it remains a secret and maybe a surprise for me… I stayed at home and caught up on some of the interminable to-do list. Just don’t ask me exactly what I achieved. Oh, and I don’t feel deprived on learning that they’d also made a pilgrimage to Ikea.

On TV, we started watching iZombie, which is quite funny but there are moments when you’re in danger of being like, totally grossed out, man.

After breakfast, Liesel drove us all to Salford, specifically to The Lowry. Rosie is a big fan of LS Lowry, and we all enjoyed the exhibition of his works.

Liesel with LS Lowry

One of his most famous paintings depicts men, and it is mostly men, on their way to a Saturday afternoon football game. The Lowry Art Gallery is very proud that Going to the Match is back in its natural habitat.

Going to the Match

You can even watch video of the auction, which may or may not be as exciting as the football game itself was that day all those decades ago.

We wandered over towards Media City, via the Blue Peter Garden. Some people’s Blue Peter badges are embedded in the footpath, which made me wonder why my Blue Peter badge isn’t represented here. And, more to the point, where is it, exactly?

A very special Blue Peter badge

After sightseeing, we drove home towards an angry looking sky.

Somehow, the car took us to Costco, the one near the Trafford Centre. We bought a few items, and had a jolly nice walk up and down most of the aisles.

Despite the foreboding sky, there was no apocalyptic thunderstorm or anything, just fascinating coclours. Somebody up there was playing with a full palette.

No filter

Because Rosie had to go back to work, Liesel drove her back to the railway station really early on Monday morning, well before I woke up. I worked on the radio show and may have gone out for a walk.

It’s half-term this week, and we picked up Martha and William for a day out. Chester Zoo was very busy, because, as I said, it’s half-term. For the first time ever, we arrived before its 10.00 opening time. We had a lot of fun with the children, but we didn’t see many animals. I did go through the bat cave with William, but Liesel and Martha aren’t big fans of the ammoniacal aroma.

Oma, William, Martha and a digger

We were all extremely excited to see this digger. They’re not in danger of extinction or anything, but we’re looking forward to visiting the new savannah area in a couple of years time.

Science Journal

Although both William and Martha picked up a Science Journal to complete as we walked around, I don’t think we visited most of the sites listed. But that didn’t stop us from picking up stickers from the shop as we left. Yes, very cunning, telling us to pick up stickers from the shop, especially as we’d all agreed before leaving home that we wouldn’t be going the the shop today!

After our 11.00 lunch, they requested ice creams.

Big ice creams or tiny children?

Well, both children were defeated and couldn’t finish their Mr Whippys. I’m sure their digestive systems were grateful.

Neon tetras

I think they found the fish in the aquariums as interesting as the big animals, the rhinos, elephants and monkeys. And we didn’t go anywhere near the Sumatran tigers, so we didn’t see the newly born twin cubs.

Liesel had an appointment at 2pm, which curtailed our visit, but after dropping her off, I took the children to the playground in Wythenshawe Park. I thought they would have run out of energy by now, but no, they ran around and climbed and slided and shared roundabouts and swings with other little ones, fairly non-stop for over an hour. As a guardian it was a challenge to keep up, especially when they chose to run in opposite directions.

Sliding

An unexpected bonus was that it was now quite warm, warm enough for us to take our coats off.

Swinging

I took the tired children home, and I’m sure they devoured a huge pile of pancakes later on, hopefully the correct way, with lemon and sugar.

I joined a training session at Wythenshawe Radio while Liesel joined the now regular, longer, Thursday morning well-being walk. Once I’ve got to grips with the software, I hope to be able to broadcast my show live from home. If you were tuned in at 2am, early Friday, you would have heard me interrupting the non-stop overnight music.

Every six months or so, the car needs a jolly good scrub, so that’s what I took care of, after the Friday morning walk around Wythenshawe. No, I didn’t go out with a bucket of water and a sponge. I engaged a gang of young men at a local car wash emporium. It took over an hour from joining the queue to being able to drive out. Not because it was that dirty, although it was, but because the guys were doing a really thorough job of cleaning the inside of everyone’s vehicle.

Shiny happy car

This week’s radio show, the proper one, Mick’s Music Mix, was two hours of songs about roads and streets.

Misadventures with technology

Agatha Christie is a very popular writer, famous for stories featuring Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. In 1926, following the death of her mother and marital problems, her husband said he wanted a divorce, she disappeared for eleven days. Her car was found at Newlands Corner, near Guildford, and it looked for a while as though she might have drowned in the nearby Silent Pool. Both of these venues have been visited during my bike rides, all those years ago. And of course, I grew up in Guildford. But, while doing research for this paragraph, I discovered something really interesting. Agatha Christie shares her birthday with Liesel. That is arguably more exciting than the discovery that my daughter Jenny has the same birthday as Kylie Minogue.

Most Saturday mornings, Liesel goes out for a coffee with the ladies of the WI, at a nice place in Didsbury. This week, I didn’t walk with her. Instead, I took a bus into Manchester. What a busy, thriving city Manchester is on a Saturday morning. Lots of entertainment in the form of buskers.

Busker number 1

This chap playing drums was quite loud, but the others seemed to have located themselves just the right distance apart, so that none interfered with the music of others. There was a pair of saxophone players, there was a tenor belting out an aria that I didn’t recognise and I briefly accompanied the group singing UB40 songs. No photos of these because I didn’t have any more coins to throw into their respective hats or guitar cases, but they were all good.

I’d come into Manchester specifically to see Tom Hingley and Gordon MacKay perform at HMV, to mark the release of their new album, Decades. Which, of course, I had to purchase. And of course, Tom signed it!

Tom and Gordon and the band

The songs are pretty good, especially the one celebrating a visit of Muhammad Ali to Abingdon, Tom and Gordon’s home town. The champion boxer visited several times, keeping in touch with a local man who’d campaigned to have his boxing titles reinstated after they’d been taken away for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war.

While in HMV, of course I looked at the records. I have no intention of buying any vinyl again, but I was intrigued to see a double album of David Bowie’s concert at St Monica in 1972. £49.99. Blimey O’Crikey! Fifty quid? I bought that record as a bootleg from Kensington Market nearly half a century ago, for a lot less than half a ton!

My plan was to go home afterwards and knit some words together in the form of a blog post. But an invitation arrived to join the family for dinner, an offer that I couldn’t refuse.

I went home, and later, Liesel and I drove over the Cheadle Hulme where we met Jenny, Liam, Martha and William at Gusto for a very enjoyable meal. On this occasion, I made sure not to order too much food. In fact, I paced myself so well, I was able to indulge in a dessert.

Martha, William, Liam in Gusto

You’re looking at that photo and thinking it’s not very good, right? Let me have a whinge. The camera app on my phone recently updated, and it works differently. I used to be able to adjust the brightness of a picture easily and quickly, now it’s almost impossibly difficult. Touching that part of the screen now does something totally different. So, by the time I press the shutter, the composition is totally different. When looking at a potential picture, I see a yellow square, a white circle as well as the two shutter buttons. In the great scheme of things, this is still as wonderful technology of course, but why do ‘they’ have to keep ‘improving’ things?

So last week’s post was a day late because when I arrived home that night, I didn’t feel like doing anything else! I was too full and, well, lazy.

I enjoyed another bus ride into Manchester just a couple of days later. It was time again to go and donate another armful of blood.

Helicopter landing area

For some reason, the trek from the bus stop in Oxford Road to the donation centre took me through the grounds of Manchester Royal Infirmary on this occasion. Of course, as soon as I saw this sign, I looked up. No helicopter in sight, but I suspect I would have heard one before I saw it, if there had been one.

Good Life

As I was a few minutes early, I wandered around aimlessly and came across this graffti. I’m not sure whether it’s promoting the popular sitcom from the 1970s, or the Tony Bennett song, or maybe the graffiti artist was just having an excellent day.

Giving blood was no problem, apart from I was only allowed one packet of biscuits afterwards. I am composing a letter of complaint to the authorities.

Liesel had some work to do, so she missed out on the regular midweek walk around Northenden. I enjoyed it though, along with my coffee afterwards, plus, it was warm enough to sit outside the café on this occasion.

Later in the day, we collected Martha and William from school and brought them home, where they both finished decorating their scallop shells.

Never mind the scallops

These beautiful works of art are now enhancing the children’s rooms at home, to the detriment of our own shelves… There was plenty of cutting paper and gluing and pipe-cleaner wrangling as well.

Martha with customised spectacles

We had tacos for dinner plus pear crumble which the children didn’t even try. Uh? Oh well: more for me!

To celebrate our wedding anniversary, we drove over to Harrogate for afternoon tea and to spend the night. It took over two and a half hours to drive there, much longer than anticipated. I’m blaming technology. Why? Let me have a whinge. The Google Maps app on my phone recently updated, and it seems to have reset some settings without my intervention. Liesel asked why we were following country roads all the way. When I checked, I discovered that ‘Avoid Freeways’ was ticked. Well, first, we call them ‘Motorways’ in this country. And while I have used the option to avoid motorways in the past, the last time we went anywhere, we were definitely using motorways. In the great scheme of things, this is still wonderful technology of course, but why do ‘they’ have to keep ‘improving’ things?

Even though it was a long drive, we did admire the countryside, especially when it stopped raining and we weren’t being sprayed by passing big lorries. We parked up and checked in, then went downstairs for our delicious tea, thank you very much Pauline and Andrew for sending us the voucher for Christmas!

Afternoon tea

We filled up but agreed that we would have liked more sandwiches and fewer cakes, but the tea kept coming, and we were sitting close but not too close to the fire. It was a real fire too, to the point that coal or a log or something nearly fell out of the fireplace onto the rug, thereby potentially burning the whole place down.

We were at the Old Swan Hotel on Harrogate, and this is where Agatha Christie was staying when she went ‘missing’ that time. She had no memory of those eleven days afterwards, so it will probably always remain a mystery, how did she get from Surrey to Yorkshire?

Mrs Christie found

After tea, we had no desire to eat anything else for the rest of the day, so we had a nice quiet evening in our room. The view wasn’t much, and my plans to do some writing while Liesel was working came to nought. Well, so did Liesel’s plans do do some work, if you must know. But I am enjoying my latest book, Wolf by Mo Hayder.

I’m not having much luck with technology lately, and there is more bad news to come. The battery in my Kindle needs replacing. I’ve done that before, it’s a slow, pernickety job, but I know I can do it. So, a new battery has been ordered.

In the morning, we enjoyed a big breakfast, a bit of continental and a small cooked breakfast each too. Plus coffee from a pot that loved dribbling all over the pristine table cloth. Just can’t get decent spouts these days.

The rest of the morning, we wandered around the town of Harrogate. It’s hilly. I would love to show you pictures of trees that had blown down in the strong winds overnight. And some of the local buildings. And Betty’s, the famous tea rooms. We didn’t go in because, as my photo would have shown, there was a very long queue, even at 11 in the morning. And the selfie of the day.

I’m not having much luck with technology lately, and there is more bad news to come. While writing this and uploading photos, my phone decided to turn itself off. Its battery had gone from 15% charge to zero in a very short space of time. Yes, the phone too probably needs a new battery. Yes, alright, I should have acted on the warning message it gave me a while ago.

Battery performance notice

But, in the process of powering down, the SD card got zapped(*) and I have lost all the photos stored on it. Most have been backed up of course, but not for a couple of weeks. So, there is no photographic evidence that we walked around Harrogate. Well, there might be on the local CCTV cameras and we might have inadvertently photobombed other people’s pictures, but all the wonderfully composed and exposed photos of mine are but bits of dust on the SD card. (*) I assume this is the reason I can no longer access those photos, I can’t think of any other reason, and all the music on that SD card is still accessible.

And while I am happy to change the battery in the Kindle, I’ll have to get a professional to replace the battery in the phone.

The drive back home was much faster. We used motorways. And we saw the long, long queue heading in the opposite direction towards Leeds. So glad we weren’t part of that!

We have a guest for the weekend. Liesel  collected Rosie from Stockport station around 10pm, by which time, I was asleep in bed.

On this week’s radio show, I had a chat with Dave from Thrive Manchester, and the songs were mostly lists of things, people, dances, events, not forgetting the Compleat Works of Shakespeare. Catch up here.

Three threes

The old printer has found a new home, I hope the new carers get years of enjoyment out of it. Meanwhile, our new printer is doing a great job, at least in terms of printing black and white documents. One day, we’ll try and print photos, in colour.

Still messing around with ChatGPT, here’s a little sonnet that it wrote at my request:

From Liesel’s phone, she captured the sunset,
A moment of beauty, worth sharing with all,
For eyes to witness, with no need to fret,
Her photo would inspire, both big and small.

The hues of orange and pink fill the sky,
A sight so serene, it’s hard to describe,
Her lens captures it all, no need to try,
For her photo tells a story, with no bribe.

The sun bids adieu, as it fades away,
But Liesel’s photo remains for us to see,
It reminds us to cherish every day,
And the beauty that’s around, for you and me.

So, let’s give thanks to Liesel’s lovely shot,
For sharing with us a moment we’ve sought.

Another Northenden sunset
Me and my shadow

It was a good week for pounding the beat locally. There are more signs of Spring now, although I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the really cold weather. Someone mentioned the beast from the east, and even that phrase alone makes me shiver, brrr.

Northenden Village Green

We participated in all three organised walks this, meeting a few new people on the way. One afternoon, I’m glad I had a good reason to nip over to Benchill, otherwise I might have missed this unusual cloud formation.

Altocumulus undulatus over Northenden

We don’t have a night out for ages and then the have three in a week. I’ve been meaning to go for a long time, but this week, I actually ventured into Manchester to watch some comedy: Jokes at the Oaks. The venue is The Seven Oaks pub in Manchester’s Chinatown.

Chinatown

It was a very entertaining evening, with comedy from Dan Tiernan (who was on my radio show a couple of weeks ago), Charlie Lewis, Hayley Ellis, Jordan Ducharme, Harry Stickini and James Heath (any of whom would be welcome on my show, any time). The room was packed, and we all had a great time.

Jokers at The Oaks

Our second evening of entertainment was provided by folk singer Frankie Archer (she was on my show a couple of weeks ago too). This time, we were at a much smaller venue, The Talleyrand, and there was a small but perfectly formed audience. She held us rapt for just over an hour, even when the subject matter of some of the songs was potentially upsetting. You don’t realise how many folk songs are murder songs, until someone points it out.

Frankie Archer

We drove over to Buxton for our next night out, a return visit to the gorgeous Buxton Opera House. Here we laughed and chuckled at Danny Baker’s third and final (maybe) solo stage show, in which he took us through his radio and TV careers. Lots of name-dropping of course, plenty of mentions of his Dad, Spud, plus some very funny stories.

Danny Baker

This guy can’t stand still when he’s talking at 90 mph, so I’m guessing he clocked up about 20,000 steps on stage that night during the monologue that lasted well over three hours.

This show was a complete antidote to the disaster that occurred earlier in the day. I installed the newly acquired power supply unit in the old PC, verging on the limits of my technical expertise and competence. I took photos of the innards so that I would make all the right connections.

Dusty PC innards

I hoovered up as much dust as I could without sucking up any components. Then the moment of truth. Plug in, turn on at the wall, switch on at the back and finally, press the big button to boot up the PC. Nothing. Not a flicker of life. Nada. Whatever the problem is, it’s beyond me. Do I take it to an expert to fix? I could, but that would be an expense far beyond the value of the thing. Since there are still files on the old hard disk drive to copy off, I removed the HDD with a view to connecting it to my laptop eventually. Because I could, I also disconnected the CD/DVD player. The rest will be deposited lovingly in its final resting place: down the road at the tip. What a shame. I was using Windows 7 and even Windows XP on the old PC right up until just before Christmas. Now, on the laptop, it’s Windows 11 all the way. That’s progress, I suppose.

On the radio show this week, I attempted to build a house using song titles and lyrics. If you missed it on Wythenshawe Radio, you can catch it here on Mixcloud. The Mixcloud version has a house and an extension, an extra hour of songs which I hope you enjoy.

Three walks, three technical issues, three nights out, three threes, see, it all makes sense!

Walk an empty mile

Amidst the fleeting moments of life, the extraction of a tooth, though quick, a mere twenty seconds, proved to be a task of greater import, as the wound persisted in bleeding for twenty minutes past. Anaesthesia had masked the pain, but its fleeting touch had only heightened the senses, leaving the tongue to wander and explore the new contours of the mouth.

And so it was, that in the quest for medical aid, I journeyed to the apothecary once more, to collect the remnants of my prescription. In the waiting, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of knowledge, a library in the heart of Wythenshawe Forum.

Bee in the City: Willow Garden

Surrounded by the buzz of activity, I encountered a mechanical marvel, a robot stationed within the halls. Though its movements were limited, I couldn’t resist greeting it with a warm hello.

Casey the Robot

The library held within its walls a wealth of history, chronicling the rise of Wythenshawe Hospital from humble beginnings, from a piggery next to tuberculosis wards, to one of the finest institutions in the northwest of England. I learned of the famous figures that had passed through Wythenshawe’s halls, from Yuri Gagarin and Gladys Knight, to the legendary Bruce Forsyth, and more. Liesel was especially delighted to hear about Brucie.

Wythenshawe Library Homework Centre

On a day filled with care, we had the pleasure of looking after young Martha, who was off from school due to a teachers’ strike. We embarked on a journey of art and indulgence, visiting a quaint café, the oft-visited Quirky Misfits, for a babyccino, where she savoured the sweetness of cream and marshmallows. Her curious spirit was enticed by a shop filled with rocks, stones, and crystals, leading her to add a new treasure to her collection.

Martha, rocks

With William in tow, we ventured to a playland, where they let loose, danced and played to their hearts’ content. But as can be seen, Cheadle Hulme appears to be in a different timezone to London.

Head Over Heels clock
Martha on the dancefloor
Ball pond

And as the day came to an end, we treated them to a fine dining experience, where they displayed impeccable manners, ordering their meals and making requests with ease.

Martha and William at Gusto

William was very nearly welcomed into the arms of Morpheus, but his revival was achieved by the strange medicaments, chocolate brownie and ice cream.

The week was filled with many adventures, from walks through Wythenshawe…

Creek
Stumped
Snowdrops

… to completing the viewing of a TV series, Dark, and hosting a radio show, centered around the theme of The Archers, archers and archery. I even had the privilege of speaking with the talented folk singer, Frankie Archer, and playing her records for the world to hear.

Though the path ahead may be uncertain, and my steps difficult to retrace, I carry with me the memories of these moments, forever etched in my mind, a reminder of the beauty of life’s journeys.

‘Twas an interesting experiment, making use of Artificial Intelligence to help produce this post. Did it save time? Not really, no. Am I happy with the results? Not entirely, no. It is considered unethical to pass off someone else’s work as your own. It’s important to give credit where credit is due and maintain integrity in all of your actions. So, thanks very much for your help, ChatGPT, and good luck with taking over the world.